Morzine sits in a beautiful valley, surrounded by mountains, snowy peaks and rolling hills. The whole region is amazing for hiking and trail running and there’s no shortage of routes to choose from. However, the immediate skyline around the village is dominated by three peaks: Nantaux, Ressachaux and Nyon.
If you’re looking for a test of endurance, conquering all three could be the challenge for you. For the extreme fitness freaks, it’s entirely possible to do all three in a day, but that involves starting in the early hours of the morning and battling with your body, mind and soul to finish before dark.
You’ll ache for days and this idea isn’t for the feint hearted. However, people who have done it say it’s intense, rewarding and worthwhile. If you’re looking for something a little less physically demanding, why not make it a longer challenge? Perhaps you could make it your aim to conquer the three before summer is out? Either way, each route gives you amazing views of the Portes Du Soleil, dramatic rolling landscapes, exciting trails to follow and a definite sense of achievement.
Starting from the hamlet of Essert-Pierre, which sits just above Saint Jean d’Aulps on the road to Thonon, it’ll take you a 3-4 hour round trip to reach the summit of Nantaux. The ideal spot to start the hike is at the telephone box in Essert Pierre, park up and follow the nearby signposted path, which takes you deep into the forest.
The Pointe De Nantaux, at 2170m, is a tricky climb, and will leave your thighs burning. Depending on how you complete the ascent, you’ll need to use your hands in places. This particular route takes you through the woods for the majority of the hike, bringing you out into tall grassy fields for the second half. When you reach the summit, you’ll have stunning views of the Lake at Montriond, Lake Geneva, Avoriaz, and Morzine and in the distance Mont Blanc. If you’re planning to take part in the “Vertical Kilometre” challenge, which takes place in Chamonix, I’m told this tricky peak is ideal training for that.
There are other routes that will take you to the top of Nantaux, via the other faces of the mountain, this one is better for traditional hiking, taking you up the steadier western side of the peak. If you’re hoping to complete the three peaks in a day, most people start at this one early in the morning and then head to the other two, which are closer to Morzine to finish.
This peak is a long and arduous climb, starting at the Nyon Telecabine car park on the Route de la Manche in Morzine. The path takes you steeply through the woods for around an hour before opening up in grass fields at the base of the mountain. When you reach a collection of small wooden chalets, there’s a water trough, which is an ideal midway spot to stop for a refuelling break.
The hike then continues around the base of the mountain before turning to take you directly to the summit. From here it’s about another hour climb. Just as a warning, we came across wild boar at this point, so it might be worth keeping a close eye on your dogs [or keep them on the lead]! It took about 2 hours 20 minutes to reach the top, where you’re rewarded with incredible views of the Portes Du Soleil, stretching as far as the Swiss mountains, Mont Blanc and the resorts of Les Gets, Morzine and Avoriaz. The descent, back the way you came, is testing on the knees but the whole hike is entirely do-able in 3 and a half hours.
The hike up the final peak, starts in the same place as the second, at the Nyon Telecabine car park. Head up past the Nyon waterfall and cascades and follow the path diagonally through the woods taking you up to the plateau de Nyon. That will take you around 2 hours to complete and is fairly unrelenting. You’ve then got a steep, and very demanding final push to the summit. If you want to take the more direct route to the peak, you can follow the pistes, which also lead you to the plateau.
This is steeper and far more painful on the knees and thighs but also a lot shorter! When you do reach the top, the views are stunning, giving you a full circular view of the Portes Du Soleil and on clear days a much closer look at Mont Blanc. By this point, you’ll want to descend in any way you can, but following the pistes down is the usual favourite, especially after a long day of hiking. The round trip up Pointe De Nyon takes around 4 hours.
Each mountain is spectacular, with incredible scenery, demanding parts, easier plateaus and stunning landscapes. It’s well worth trying to conquer some, or all of them, especially if you’re looking for a challenge. I wouldn’t attempt any of these if you’re really lacking in fitness, but you can make each easier by checking out trail variations and by really preparing in advance.
We completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks before moving to France and I have to say, (perhaps unsurprisingly) the legs are struggling a lot more today thanks to the power of the Alps!
- Hiking / Walking
- Mountain Walking